Summer Intern’s Final Thoughts (from the office at least)

Posted on August 4, 2011 by Karen Ward

It’s amazing for me to read over the first blog post I wrote as the World Hunger summer intern only two months ago. It’s also surreal to be sitting in my cubicle during my last week working at the Lutheran Center. It all went so fast, yet it was packed with so much personal growth, education and discernment that it felt much longer than one summer. Many young adults hope for a summer packed with sunshine, good friends, good times and perhaps a little romance. I feel I was privileged to experience all of these (just got my dad’s attention), but maybe differently than most would imagine.
The first few goals are what anyone would expect. Despite working in an office for the summer, I still managed to get outside and enjoy the sights and various cultures of Chicago and my tan lines are living proof of those experiences. Also I have become friends with the other interns working with me this summer and we’ve shared some great memories in and around the Windy City.
My “summer romance,” however, took an unexpected form. I ended up falling in love with my longtime good friend . . . the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Is that weird, saying that I fell in love with my denomination? Let me clarify.
First and foremost, I am a Christian. I’ve devoted my life to picking up my cross and following Christ. My own personal discernment has led me to sense a call to ordained ministry, but everyone has their own call to discern. Secondly, while I was born into the Episcopal church, I’ve grown up in an ELCA congregation. While my heritage is not deeply rooted in the Lutheran church, I feel that my family–my mom, my dad and I–is deeply rooted in our home congregation. Through thick and thin, Trinity Lutheran Church has been a major part of our lives, and the values we’ve learned there have guided our daily lives.
But it took me years of growth and engagement to really get a handle on what the ELCA is all about. Through various Theological Education with Youth programs I learned more about the wide range of Lutheran Social Services around the country—dealing with homelessness, hunger, social justice, advocacy, education and the list goes on and on. However, it wasn’t until this summer, working at the Lutheran Center, that I really began to understand what the ELCA stands for. I’ve had the privilege of having one-on-one meetings with various members of the church-wide staff. I’ve discussed their passions and their hopes and concerns for the future of the church. All of these discussions have lead to my acknowledgment that I’m proud to be Lutheran and I love serving within a Lutheran context.
I love that we’re engaged in the world through mission development, through hunger appeals, environmental sustainability practices, and through disaster relief both here and abroad. I love that our mission work is grounded in the theology of accompaniment, where working side by side with people around the world is the key and relationships are of great value. I love that we’re deeply committed to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and that we are engaged in public policy through our social statements. I love that we value diversity and are striving to create a more diverse church full of various experiences and ideas. I love that we have over 300 new mission starts that are working to becoming new ELCA congregations and that we have over 10,000 existing congregations that have the potential to be continually moving and growing with the Spirit. I love that we are passionate about diving into scripture and creating deep theological discussion and discernment. I love our Lutheran understanding that we have been freed by Christ to serve, whatever form that may take. Lastly, I love that all of this work is grounded in the idea that this is not our doing: God’s work. Our hands.
I’ve fallen deep and I’ve fallen hard. I’m excited to see where God leads me next and how I can continue to deepen my engagement with the church. Let me know what you love and what you’re passionate about in your faith life! I’d love to hear from you!

P.S. Look out for future posts from me!

God bless,

Karen

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